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Ishii Tatsuhiko



11 Ishii Tatsuhiko

The tanka poet Ishii Tatsuhiko (b. 1952) believes that each of the syllabic units, 5 and 7, that make up the 5-7-5-7-7-syllable tanka form is comparable to a trochee, that therefore the tanka can only be written in one line, and that tanka make proper sense only as a sequence. He makes this argument in Gendaishi to shite no tanka (Tanka as Modern Poetry, Shoshi Yamada, 1999), a splendiferous book that presents his case for “the oldest poetic form in continuous use” through a demonstration of his close understandings of a dozen artistic fields. He also stands out in his deployment of interlinear spaces, punctuation, and a variety of symbols in flamboyant fashion, often incorporating into his pieces phrases from poems and such in foreign languages verbatim.

Ishii has published nine collec­tions of tanka. Among them are Nanakamodo (Sorbus Commixta, Shin’ya Sōsho Sha, 1982), Haka (The Graves, Shichigatsudō, 1989), Bathhouse (Shoshi Yamada, 1994), Umi no kūkyo (The Void of the Sea, Fushiki Shoin, 2001), Zen-jinrui ga iota yoru (The Night All Mankind Grew Old, Shoshi Yamada, 2004), Hebi no shita (The Snake’s Tongue, Shoshi Yamada, 2007), Shi o sutesatte (Utterly Abandoning Poetry, Shoshi Yamada, 2011), and Röma de inu data (I Was a Dog in Rome, 2013).